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Ventura Co. man remains in custody for alleged unlicensed money-trading

By   /   Friday, August 1st, 2008  /   Comments Off on Ventura Co. man remains in custody for alleged unlicensed money-trading

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James Michael Fayed, co-owner of a Camarillo-based international gold-trading company is being held without bail as federal prosecutors pursue a charge that he operated an unlicensed money-transmitting business since April 2006 with his wife.

The indictment does not mention that Fayed’s estranged wife, Pamela, 45, was stabbed to death July 28 in a Century City parking garage. However, federal prosecutors attempted to link Fayed to the slaying, saying the suspected getaway vehicle was rented on his credit card, in their arguments for keeping him in jail until trial.

FBI agents took Fayed into custody in his rural home near Moorpark late Aug. 1. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Aveis convinced U.S. District Court Judge Otis D. Wright II that Fayed is a flight risk, noting as part of his argument that Pamela Fayed had agreed to help federal prosecutors look into one of the couple’s businesses.

Mark Werksman, James Fayed’s defense attorney, did not respond to a phone calls seeking comment by press time.

Meanwhile, a class-action lawsuit filed in Ventura County seeks to seize as much as $5 million it claims are on account with Camarillo-based e-Bullion, one of the two businesses the Fayeds owned.

The suit does not accuse e-Bullion of any wrongdoing. It alleges another company, Invest Manager, ran a Ponzi scheme and that the proceeds of that scheme might be stored in e-Bullion accounts.

“There doesn’t appear to be anything untoward about e-Bullion,” said Steven Renshaw, the Ventura attorney handling the case, adding that he has had “some success” in getting the company to cooperate with his inquiries.

The lawsuit against Invest Manger alleges the firm promised investors a 12 percent weekly return. Invest Manager initially delivered those results but then disappeared, the lawsuit alleges.

The people behind Invest Manger haven’t been identified, nor has its headquarters or place of incorporation, Renshaw said. There has been no reply to the complaint, which was filed May 20.

After a legal notice of the suit runs for at least a month, a judge can rule on how much the plaintiffs are owed and give them the green light to purse the funds, which Renshaw said he believed are on account with e-Bullion.

In its indictment of James Fayed, the FBI alleges that the man operated Goldfinger Coin & Bullion, the Fayeds’ other business, without a license since at least April 2006, according to court documents.

Aside from the attention of federal investigators, the Fayeds’ businesses had also drawn the scrutiny of the Better Business Bureau of Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, which had given e-Bullion an “F” rating.

Rick Copelan, the bureau’s president, said an unusually high number of people requested to see e-Bullion’s grade.

“We’ve given out that ‘F’ rating 3,398 times this year, and five thousand last year,” Copelan said. “To me it indicates a great degree of suspicion on the part of the public about this company.”

In the past 36 months, Copelan said, e-Bullion had 32 complaints lodged against it, 16 of which went unanswered. The complaints showed a common theme, Copelan said.

“People tell us they have money in these accounts and then the accounts get frozen. People can’t figure out how to get them unfrozen,” Copelan said. “Phone calls aren’t returned, e-mails aren’t returned.”

The resolved complaints came from customers calling the bureau to say their issue was cleared up, Copelan said. “In our records, going back three years, [e-Bullion and Goldfinger] never once sent us a response.”

Invest Manager is not believed to have any relation to either Goldfinger or e-Bullion.

James and Pamela Fayed married in 1979, but recently were in the midst of a contentious divorce. Pamela Fayed alleged that her estranged husband denied her access to their business records.

The day before James and Pamela Fayed filed for divorce, Pamela Fayed attempted to withdraw $400,000 from their business accounts, court records show. James Fayed reversed that transaction.

The divorce court had placed James Fayed in charge of the couple’s companies.

Divorce documents filed by Pamela Fayed claim the couple held $12.7 million in joint accounts. However, an unsigned sticky note posted beside several accounts in the divorce documents reads “Do not exist.” It’s unclear who posted the note or what it means.

In June, Pamela Fayed was fighting to have the couple’s businesses taken from James Fayed’s control for the remainder of the divorce. A hearing on that matter was slated for the day she was killed.

Calls to both of the Fayeds’ businesses went unanswered. Neither company lists a street address.


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